June 26, 2015: Updated Social Media Guidelines for Attorneys Issued by NYS Bar's Commercial and Federal Litigation Section

Social media networks, increasingly indispensable tools for attorneys, also pose thorny ethical questions, such as: Can an attorney accept "endorsements" on LinkedIn? Can an attorney access private Facebook pages of potential jurors? Does an attorney create an attorney-client relationship with a stranger by answering legal questions on the Internet?

To guide attorneys in dealing with these and other questions, the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association has issued a report entitled Social Media Ethics Guidelines. The updated Guidelines were developed by the Social Media Committee of the section. The section's 2014 version of the Guidelines received national recognition and has been cited in ethics opinions of other bar associations.

"With the Guidelines, New York leads state bar associations nationwide in guiding attorneys on the use of social media," said New York State Bar Association President David P. Miranda of Albany (Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti). "We applaud the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section for developing the Guidelines and recognizing the need to update them as social media ethics continue to evolve and become more refined."

"Social media is changing the practice of law," said James M. Wicks of Uniondale (Farrell Fritz), chair of the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section. "Our first guideline states that a lawyer has a duty to understand the benefits, risks and ethical implications associated with social media.  Our section is pleased to offer Guidelines to assist fellow attorneys.”

The updated 2015 Guidelines adds sections on “Attorney Competence” and “Using Social Media to Communicate with a Judicial Officer.” In addition, existing guidelines have been expanded to address: “Lawyer’s Responsibility to Monitor or Remove Social Media Content by Others on a Lawyer’s Social Media Page,” “Attorney Endorsements,” “Retention of Social Media Communications with Clients” and “Maintaining Client Confidences and Confidential Information.” 

The updated 2015 Guidelines reflects recent ethics opinions issued by the New York State Bar Association , American Bar Association, Association of the Bar of the City of New York, New York County Lawyers’ Association and  other bar associations outside New York state. 

The Guidelines, which are advisory, are available at www.nysba.org/socialmediaguidelines.

The Commercial and Federal Litigation Section’s Social Media Committee is co-chaired by Mark A. Berman of New York (Ganfer & Shore) and Ignatius A. Grande of New York (Hughes Hubbard & Reed). Berman is  chair-elect of the section.

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876. 

Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services & Public Affairs
lbang-jensen@nysba.org
518/487-5530